This is the Hindu pilgrimage town of Pushkar in Rajasthan, India. I came here for the annual Pushkar Camel Fair. When camel traders and animal herders ascend on this town with 50,000 horses, cattle, and the star attraction, the camels.
Pushkar is like no other town in India you will visit. The village area wraps around Pushkar Lake, considered one of the great Hindu pilgrimages of India. Some of Mahatma Ghandi’s mortal remains were scattered from a ghat or staircase at the lake. That ghat now bears his name.
The town itself, complete with wandering cows, pandas or Hindu priests offering flowers and pujas for big baksheesh centers around the main street or Sadar Bazaar. It’s a mix of traveler hippie food joints, cafes and shops and ghats to the lake. Just a great mix of travelers, pilgrims, and locals here.
It’s also where you’ll find one of the only Brahma temples in the world. They’re waiting to enter after the midday break. Brahma is the Hindu creator God and of the few of these temples that exist, this one is the most prominent.
And these are the fairgrounds, where all the business of camels takes place. I arrived about 5 days before the official start of the fair. This is the time when you’ll see the most camels and trading.
It’s a hot, dry dusty environment, filled with every sound a camel could possibly make. Camel herders discipling and training the younger ones, a scene you could find just a little disturbing.
It’s pure India though, filled with constant movement, musicians and gypsies swirling around you for baksheesh and thousands of camels constantly on the move around the grounds. Sensory perception overload.
The fair takes place every year coinciding with Kartika poornima, sometimes called Devi-Diwali, the festival of lights of the gods. Pilgrims from all over India come to bath in the holy lake of Pushkar. When the business of camels concludes, the crazy fair begins with snake charmers, children balancing on tightropes and the giant bath in the lake.
What makes this gathering so special? For me it’s a window to nomadic life that still exists for these people, conducting business the same way for thousands of years. Maybe there’s cel phones and other modern aids used but a life centered around the movement of camels hasn’t changed.
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